Working papers:

"Experimental Evidence on the Economics of Rural Electrification."
Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram. 2019.

Abstract: We present results from an experiment that randomized the expansion of electric grid infrastructure in rural Kenya. Electricity distribution is a canonical example of a natural monopoly. Our experimental variation in the number of connections, combined with administrative cost data, reveals considerable scale economies, as hypothesized. Randomized price offers indicate that demand for connections falls sharply with price, and is far lower than anticipated by policymakers. Among newly connected households, average electricity consumption is very low, implying low consumer surplus. Moreover, we do not find meaningful medium-run impacts on economic and non-economic outcomes. We discuss implications for current efforts to increase rural electrification in Kenya, and highlight how credit constraints, bureaucratic red tape, low reliability, leakage, and other factors may affect interpretation of the results.

Media:
Articles - Oxford Institute for Energy Studies [08/18], Forbes [03/18], Reuters [07/15]
Other - VoxDev [01/19]




Journal articles:

"Appliance Ownership and Aspirations among Electric Grid and Home Solar Households in Rural Kenya."
Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram. 2016.

Abstract: In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are active debates about whether increases in energy access should be driven by investments in electric grid infrastructure or small-scale “home solar” systems (e.g., solar lanterns and solar home systems). We summarize the results of a household electrical appliance survey and describe how households in rural Kenya differ in terms of appliance ownership and aspirations. Our data suggest that home solar is not a substitute for grid power. Furthermore, the environmental advantages of home solar are likely to be relatively small in countries like Kenya, where grid power is primarily derived from non-fossil fuel sources.

Media:
Blogs - Greentech Media [01/16], Energy Institute at Haas [01/16]



"Electrification for "Under Grid" Households in Rural Kenya."
Kenneth Lee, Eric Brewer, Carson Christiano, Francis Meyo, Edward Miguel, Matthew Podolsky, Javier Rosa, and Catherine Wolfram. 2016.

Abstract: In Sub-Saharan Africa, 600 million people live without electricity. Despite ambitions of governments and donors to invest in rural electrification, decisions about how to extend electricity access are being made in the absence of rigorous evidence. Using a novel dataset of 20,000 geo-tagged structures in rural Western Kenya, we provide descriptive evidence that electrification rates remain very low despite significant investments in grid infrastructure. This pattern holds across time and for both poor and relatively well-off households and businesses. We argue that if governments wish to leverage existing infrastructure and economies of scale, subsidies and new approaches to financing connections are necessary.


Media:
Stories - Quartz [01/17], Foreign Affairs [08/16], NPR "All Things Considered" [07/15], ClimateWire [07/15]
Blogs - GSMA [07/15], GSMA [09/14], USAID FIRM [08/14] Energy Institute at Haas [08/14]; Center for Global Development [07/14]